Victoria – Sunday June 9

Installation with face detection by Isobel Knowles

I was taken aback when I first spotted Isobel Knowles installation in the George Street gallery because this form, with the head-hole peep-holes, Victorian influenced construction and push-button interface was resonant not only with installations I have done before,

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Instructions inside the box.

(see Midway Projections for example), but with countless sketchbook scrawlings considering the idea of faces being swapped and inserted into animations in a similar format, and dreams of building more filigreed boxes in which people can stick their heads.

Knowles piece is beautifully constructed as an object, with laser-cut overlaid panels, attention to detail from the bench upholstery, height of the interface, distance of the participants, and location of the headphones. 


My face in the animation

The inside is considered with side-mounted lights, instructions on the bottom inside of the box, and angled holes at the sides that allow others from outside to see in and even photograph the two screens in front of the participants’ faces. When two people are seated at the bench, their faces are placed behind masks of animated figures as they move through an animated world.

I have to admit that my patience for sitting with the animation to determine if the narrative played out was limited. The most memorable scene is of the two figures on a bus ride, a man and a woman, with the participants faces, irrespective of gender, placed on the animations. It can be quite comical if the genders are switched or other gender-play combinations take place. In my own participatory work,


Participants looking into the box

I try to create a fairly clear-cut moment that can be experienced, then moved away from for another participant to watch or get involved. Perhaps Knowles was doing the same here, though how long someone “should” sit with the piece, whether there was a beginning or end, was unclear.  But again, this could either reflect the intention of the piece, or my lack of interest/patience with linear story-telling reflected back.

Lucas Abela’s – Temple of Din (Audio Arcade Project) in the Nostalgia of the New panel, MCA


Lucas Abela’s Vinyl Rally

Abela’s presentation helped me to continue a train of thought I have been having about clarity of interface in participatory works.

Abella, who has a noise music background, talked about his pieceVinyl Rally, which is set up with an arcade driving game interface, and his work, Pinball Piano, which uses a pinball/piano interface.  All of these are things that people already know how to approach, already know what to do with, and the artist seems to see this as a useful way to immediately bring people in to the work and keep them engaged.  There is no learning curve with the objects.

In many of my own works, the interface isn’t something that people are accustomed to encountering in games or in computing.  In Witch Pricker, there is a pin, with a series of sculptural strawberries to poke.  This is unlike keyboards, screens levers, buttons, or mice that people are accustomed to using when they approach an interactive experience.


Witch Pricker strawberry poke, participatory work by Victoria Bradbury, Globe Gallery, 2013

Is clarity of interface important? What do readers think? Can an interface be unique, something never approached before, and still be clear enough for a user to have a valuable experience?

Abela also considers viewer competition in his works, thinking about how much and if the participants competing.  He said that people weren’t that interested when the installations were set up as a competition  He thought they would be interested In competition but they were not.  This is useful information and could also be considered in the context of my Witch Pricker installation because there could be a competitive element among participants or among oneself to see how many witches are found (or how many chocolates are obtained)!

…And I saw Stelarc (x2)

Stelarc x 2

Stelarc x 2